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Sciaenops ocellatus

Channel bass
Sciaenops ocellatus
Red drum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclass: Gnathostomata
Class: Actinopterygii
Subclass: Neopterygii
Infraclass: Teleostei
Superorder: Acanthopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Percoidei
Superfamily: Percoidea
Family: Sciaenidae
Genus: Sciaenops
Series: Percomorpha
Species: S. ocellatus
Binomial name
Sciaenops ocellatus
(Linnaeus, 1766)

Lutjanus triangulum Lacepède, 1802
Perca ocellata Linnaeus, 1766
Sciaenops ocellata (Linnaeus, 1766)

The red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), also known as channel bass, redfish, spottail bass or simply reds, is a game fish that is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Northern Mexico.[1] It is the only species in the genus Sciaenops. The red drum is a cousin to the black drum (Pogonias cromis), and the two species are often found in close proximity to each other; they can interbreed and form a robust hybrid, and younger fish are often indistinguishable in flavor.[2]

Did you know?

  • The Redfish is notorious as a bottom feeding animal. However, it can also be seen on the surface, feeding on schools of fingerling baitfish. It prefers shallow grass beds and and structures where small fish and crustaceans are abundant. There was a drastic decline in Red Drum populations in the late sixties and early seventies. Through conservation efforts the species has once again reached abundant levels. The first hatchery established to restock the Redfish population was here in Texas near Port O'Conner. In 1983, they released 2.3 million fingerlings into the San Antonio Bay. This is an amazing sport fish to pursue. Red Drum draw surf fishermen to North Carolina and Virginia beaches.

Vernacular Names

  • Catalan, Valencian: Corball ocel·lat
  • Chinese: 眼斑石首魚 · 紅擬石首魚
  • Danish: Rød trommefisk
  • Dutch: Sciaenops
  • English: Channel bass · Corvina · Drum · Red drum · Redfish · Redfish Drum · Spotted bass
  • Finnish: Punarumpukala
  • French: Tambour rouge
  • German: red drum · Roter Trommler · Roter Umberfisch · Tambour rouge
  • Lithuanian: Raudonoji kuprotė
  • Mandarin Chinese: 眼斑拟石首鱼
  • Norwegian: Rødhavgjørs
  • Polish: Kulbak czerwony
  • Portuguese: Corvin · Corvinào de pintas · Corvinào-de-pintas
  • Spanish: Corvin · Corvina · corvineta ocelada · Corvinón ocelado
  • Spanish, Castilian: Corvina · Corvineta ocelada · Corvinón ocelado
  • Swedish: Röd havsgös · Röd trumfisk


File:Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus).jpg
Mature red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) showing characteristic spot(s) at the base of the tail. This one is not a "bull red," because it is shorter than 27 inches (0.69 m).
Red drum are a dark red color on the back, which fades into white on the belly. The red drum have a characteristic eyespot near the tail and are somewhat streamlined. Three year-old red drum typically weigh six to eight pounds. When they are near or over twenty-seven inches, they are called “bull reds”.[citation needed] The largest red drum on record weighed just over 94 pounds and was caught in 1984 on Hatteras Island. Red drum are relatives of the black drum and both make a croaking or drumming sound when distressed.

The most distinguishing mark on the red drum is one large black spot on the upper part of the tail base. Having multiple spots is not uncommon for this fish but having no spots is extremely rare. As the fish with multiple spots grow older they seem to lose their excess spots. Scientists believe that the black spot near their tail helps fool predators into attacking the red drum's tail instead of their head, allowing the red drum to escape.[3] The red drum uses its senses of sight and touch, and its downturned mouth, to locate forage on the bottom through vacuuming or biting. On the top and middle of the water column, it uses changes in the light that might look like food. In the summer and fall, adult red drum feed on crabs, shrimp, and mullet; in the spring and winter, adults primarily feed on menhaden, mullet, pinfish, sea robin, lizardfish, s pot, Atlantic croaker, and mudminnows.

White underside with a copper/grey body color Tail is accented by at least one black spot Males develop approximately 2 years faster than females. Females first spawn at approximately 5 yr..


Body length usually 24 to 36 inches

Weight commonly up to 20 lb. (Texas Record 51 1/2 lb.)

1.5 m (5 feet). May live as long as 50 years in the wild, 7 years in captivity.



Feeds mainly on crustaceans, mollusks and fishes. Bottom feeds off of mollusks, crab, shrimp, crustaceans. Surface feeds on small fish. Has strong jaws and the ability to grind its food, aiding in the consumption of mollusks and crustaceans ( a major food source ). Its unique behavioral feature is that this fish likes to dig its nose into the sandy ocean bottoms, allowing its tail to splash the top of the water, known as "tailing".

Habitat and Ecology


Saltwater to brackish water. including marshland, coastal rivers, and bay areas. Prefer shallows. Flourish in water temperatures in the 70's and 80's. Occurs usually over sand and sandy mud bottoms in coastal waters and estuaries. Abundant in surf zone.

Biome: Marine.


Name Status

Name status: accepted name.
Latest taxonomic scrutiny: 19-May-2014
Source: FishBase, Jan 2015


Red drum naturally occur along the southern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, including the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Aquaculture activities involving Red Drum occur around the world.[4] Immature red drum prefer grass marsh areas of bays and estuaries when available. Both younger mature red drum (3-6 years of age) and bull red drum prefer rocky outcroppings including jetties and manmade structures, such as oil rigs and bridge posts. Around this type of structure, they are found throughout the water column.

Texas Gulf Coast, from Atlantic seacoast ranging from Mass. to Fla. continuing along Gulf of Mexico. Western Atlantic: Massachusetts in USA to northern Mexico, including southern Florida, USA.

  • Reported here: Antarctica, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Canada:Newfoundland and Labrador, Chile, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, India, Martinique, Mexico, Mexico:Veracruz, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, United States.
  • Reported here: Western Atlantic: Massachusetts in USA to northern Mexico, including southern Florida, USA.
  • Aquatic regions:  

Map showing distribution of observations of Sciaenops ocellatus.




Heritage Status: G5

Relationship with Humans

The North Carolina General Assembly of 1971 designated the red drum as the official State Salt Water Fish. (Session Laws, 1971, c. 274; G.S. 145-6).[5]

Reproduction and growth

File:Red Drum Weight vs. Length.jpg
Weight vs. length for red drum (data from Jenkins 2004).
Mature red drum spawn in near shorelines from mid-August to mid-October.[6] The red drum's eggs incubate for 24 hours. A female lays about 1.5 million (with a range of 200,000 up to more than three million) eggs per batch. Scharf (2000) reported that in the first year, young red drum in Texas estuaries grew about 0.6 mm per day, though the rates varied with location and year and were higher in more southerly estuaries.[7] After the first year they may be 271 – 383 mm long. About half of red drum are able to reproduce by age 4 years, when they are 660-700 mm long and 3.4 – 4 kg in weight. Red drum live to be 60 years old unless caught.
  • Adults mature by 3 – 5 years of age; approximate length at maturity: males – 28 inches, females – 33 inches.
  • Spawn during late summer and fall. Spawning aggregations occur near estuary inlets and passes along barrier island beaches. Males produce drumming sounds using muscular contractions to vibrate the swimbladder, to attract females.
  • Larval red drum use vertical migrations to ride high salinity tidal currents into tidal creeks and shallow salt marsh nursery habitats. [8]

As red drum grow longer, they increase in weight exponentially. The relationship between length (L) and weight (W) for nearly all species of fish can be expressed by an equation of the form:


Invariably, b is close to 3.0 for all species, and a varies between species. Jenkins (2004)[9] reported slightly different weight-length relationships for red drum caught in the spring and the fall off the western Gulf Coast of Louisiana:

<math>Spring: W=0.000005297L^{3.110}!,</math>
<math>Fall: W=0.000015241L^{2.94}!,</math>

where weight is in grams and length is total length measured in millimeters. For example, these relationships predict that a 600 mm red drum (just under two feet long) would weigh about 2300 grams (just over five pounds). These relationships can be used more specifically to determine how healthy a sample of red drum are by comparing their actual weights to weights predicted by these relationships for the same length.


Redfish was named as giving a good result with court-bouillon in a cookbook published in New Orleans in 1901.[10] In the early 1980s, the chef Paul Prudhomme made his dish of Cajun-style blackened redfish (red drum) popular. When catches of redfish declined in the 1980s many believed that it was being commercially over-fished because of its recent popularity. However, redfish numbers started declining in the late 1970s, possibly because of over-fishing of young redfish in shallow coastal waters by recreational fishermen.[citation needed] On March 1, 2009 redfish was the "secret ingredient" on the television program Iron Chef America, with competitors Mourad Lahlou and Cat Cora both preparing several dishes from the fish. Red drum have a moderate flavor and are not oily. Big drum can be challenging to clean; removing the large scales can be challenging. Many fishers prefer to fillet with an electric knife, first removing the fillet from along the backbone, and then using the electric knife to cut the fillet from the skin and scales. Fish over 15 lbs can become tough and have a consistency comparable with chicken, rather than the flakey texture of many species of fish. Younger fish are often indistinguishable in flavor from black drum.[11]

Commercial and recreational use

From 1980 through 1988, commercial fishermen took an average of 28% of the redfish while sport fishermen harvested 72 percent. Catch limits and size restrictions have increased the average weight of redfish caught in Louisiana coastal waters.[12] Restrictions on both sport and commercial fishermen allowed the species to rebuild. States actively vary the recreational catch limits and minimum and maximum lengths in order to help maintain sustainable red drum populations. Executive Order 13449 of October 20, 2007, issued by U.S. President George W. Bush, designated the red drum as a protected game fish. The order prohibits sale of red drum caught in Federal waters and encourages states to consider designating red drum as a protected game fish within state waters.[13] While they may no longer be commercially harvested in U.S. federal waters or in most state waters, they are readily caught and still enjoyed as table fare by many. In addition, farm raised redfish are still available as a commercial product [14] Commercial netting disappeared after coastal states like Florida declared red drum prohibited for sale. Recreational size and bag limits have been highly effective, allowing daily limits to be increased in recent years.


More Information


  • Catalog of Life Identifier: 7a00813ea545f4d2993a2f1b7a8b3544
  • GBIF: TaxonID: 2400222 TaxonKey: 14582292
  • Heritage Identifier: AFCQH06010
  • ITIS: 169290
  • Namebank ID: 138211
  • SP2000 Accepted Name Code: Fis-23796
  • ZipcodeZoo CritterID: 124260


  1. Sciaenops ocellatus, Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009.FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (07/2009). http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=425
  2. A Comparison o f Black Drum, Red Drum, and their Hybrid in Saltwater Pond Culture Anne Henderson-Arzapalo, Robert L. Colura, Anthony F. Maciorowski, Journal of the World Aquaculture Society Volume 25 Issue 2, Pages 289 - 296
  3. Smithsonian Marine Station page on red drum
  4. Peters Life History of Red Drum Peters, K.M., McMichael Jr., R. H. Florida Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Marine Research, St. Petersburg, Florida.
  5. Official State Symbols of North Carolina
  6. Wilson and Nieland, 1994
  7. Scharf 2000
  8. Wenner C. 1999. Red Drum: natural history and fishing techniques in South Carolina. Marine Resources Research Institute, Marine Resources Division, SC Department of Natural Resources, Charleston, SC. 40 pp.
  9. Jenkins, J.A. Fish bioindicators of ecosystem condition at the Calcasieu Estuary, Louisiana. National Wetlands Research Center, USGS, Open-File Report 2004-1323, 2004
  10. Anonymous. (1901). "The Original Picayune Creole Cook Book." New Orleans: Times-Picayune Publishing Corporation. (reprinted 1906, 1916, 1922, 1928, 1936, 1938, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1954, 1966, 1971.)
  11. A Comparison of Black Drum, Red Drum, and their Hybrid in Saltwater Pond Culture Anne Henderson-Arzapalo, Robert L. Colura, Anthony F. Maciorowski, Journal of the World Aquaculture Society Volume 25 Issue 2, Pages 289 - 296
  12. Understanding Redfish Biology - accessed August 6, 2009
  13. "Executive Order 13449: Protection of Striped Bass and Red Drum Fish Populations". Office of the Federal Register. October 20, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007. 
  14. Fritcheey, Robert (1994). Wetland Riders. Golden Meadow, Louisiana: New Moon Press.


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Page Notes

  • URL: http://ZipcodeZoo.com/index.php/Sciaenops_ocellatus
  • Primary Sources: Global Biodiversity Information Facility · the Taxonomicon · The Catalogue of Life, 3rd January 2011 · Wikimedia Commons · Wikipedia · Wikispecies · FishBase, Jan 2015 · ZipcodeZoo.com.
  • Map Data Sources: Accessed through GBIF Data Portal March 02, 2008:Canadian Museum of Nature: Canadian Museum of Nature Fish Collection · Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates: Fish Collection · FishBase: FishBase DiGIR Provider - Philippine Server · Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: Canadian Museum of Nature - Fish Collection (OBIS Canada) · Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: NODC WOD01 Plankton Database · Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: SEAMAP - marine mammals, birds and turtles · Marine Science Institute, UCSB: Paleobiology Database · Museum national d'histoire naturelle: Ichtyologie · Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University: MCZ Fish Collection · UNIBIO, IBUNAM: CNPE/Coleccion Nacional de Peces · University of Kansas Biodiversity Research Center: Fish Collection ·